Preamble (Jan 21, ’20)
I have been wanting to re-start going to office by bicycle. While this had been bugging me for a while, it became more intensive as I was approaching my retirement this month end. I want ‘to be able‘ to go to work in a non-polluting mode. I want to be able to assure myself that I was in decent fitness when I would retire from active career. My commute to work was about 17 kms one-way. I decided in the morning when I woke up, come what may I wanted to go by bicycle that day. There were some totally unexpected and unavoidable commitments that delayed me quite a bit. I had to start when the sun was already up in the middle heading towards its peak (11:40 AM). Although it was technically winter, Hyderabad has no winter really, even so around this time of the season when the sunlight becomes prickly hot after Makara Sankranti (Jan 15) when sun changes its direction (or the earth towards sun!!). Among the hardest things for a bicyclist are cross wind, sun, and uphill in that order.
I had a light breakfast, got my iPad and some nutritious, rich, compact food for lunch and evening snack, all packed up neatly in a messenger bag hung on the bicycle handle after making sure lightly that it was not pulling the brake cable. I got onto the road dressed up work jeans and usual light T-shirt and draped in an outer layer of light trousers and shirt that protect my dress from dirt. Right after i got on to the main road, I was finding it harder than usual to bike. My bicycle rides in recent few years start very early in the morning. It’s usually cold, or very pleasant when I start. My stomach would be empty and light. And no iPad bag to carry with me. Traffic would be light, and sun wouldn’t even rise until I am almost half done in my 30-50 km rides (or longer sometimes). Today’s situation was different. The ride was a little hard even before I made a fraction of my commute!
Forget the usual high traffic. I can manage that. The very steep climb and the overly wide road to cross from left to right in the crisscross high traffic at the GVK Mall was indeed very challenging, despite me anticipating this and shifting to lower gears already. So difficult that I had to stop and take a short break after finishing it. I realized that the next very long (nearly a kilometer long I guess) uphill before the Basavatarakam Cancer Hospital would be much more challenging. So I switched the gears to almost the lowest combination of front and rear gears to make the ride doable. I generally don’t change gears often on my bicycle. When I do, it’s usually only the rear gears (which yield softer but less gear efficiencies). Only at rare times do I use the high efficiency front gear combinations. Call me lazy (to change gears) or call me as one who challenges himself for hard rides, this was my habit to stick to fewer gear changes irrespective of gradation in the road.
But today the situation was different. Even after using the nearly maximum of front and rear gear combinations, pedaling became hard. Once again on this road after half way through, I had to take quick break. I wanted to make sure I don’t get giddiness (that I am very prone to since childhood) from over exhaustion. I don’t get along well with sun as most people do. My heart beat was easily well over 140 bpm (beats per minute). The next steep climb at the TRS Bhavan in Jubilee Hills was as easy as other times owing to momentum gained from the downhill ride (but for that auto who crossed into my way and slowed down towards the fag end of the uphill).
Challenge Gets Tougher
At the Volkswagon Car Showroom area, looking at the long traffic jam ahead of me, I decided to take the v-turn (via Little Italy restaurant and Apollo Hospital Parking bay) to get to Film Nagar), although I knew this was a nearly impossible road to bike on without getting down and tread my path. This has short but extremely steep curves and serious uphill turns as in the difficult sections of Srisailam ghat road). I again shifted to lower gears (except the 1-1 combination with rear gear which for some reason wouldn’t work in this combination that day). No second thoughts. This was seriously very difficult and extremely challenging. My heart rate was right at its peak perhaps. ‘After Completing‘ the uphill, I got down the bike and took a short break for the third time and catch my breath to ensure I didn’t break-down with exhaustion and avoided the imminent giddiness.
Challenge isn’t over Yet
And for the fourth and the longest uphill with some serious difficult sections in the Journalist Colony Narne Road, I didn’t stop anywhere even upon finishing it. I completed it and thoroughly enjoyed the long downhill with a beautiful view of the city. After crossing the Dargah Junction signal, I was wondering why had it become so difficult to ride today. If not THE best, I was in a decently good fitness these days with few 30 or 50 kms rides to my back completed very easily after all. Despite the fact of some luggage and the jeans that I was wearing (as against cycling shorts/gear that I wear for my early morning rides), the ride shouldn’t have been so hard. Could it be possible that there is some brake pad stalling my wheels even if lightly?
Some People Don’t Learn From Mistakes
Sure it is! As I pulled over and checked, I realized that the iPad messenger bag was surely affecting the cable somehow and was applying brakes. And not lightly. either When I rotated the wheel with a free hand, it wouldn’t rotate at all, leave around moving freely!! God Damn It! No wonder, the ride was so difficult today. I was pushing it harder and harder to compensate. No wonder, I had to leverage the front gears also today. No wonder, I was getting exhausted. Nope, despite the steep uphills, despite the sun at the top of my head, despite the high traffic, despite the jeans affecting a free knee movement, despite the small load of the messenger bag, this ride shouldn’t have been so tough as it did today.
It’s my bad! I should’ve checked the free movement of wheels much sooner when I noticed it being harder right when I got on to the main road from my home. The weight of the messenger bag had somehow pulled the brake lever cable.
The steep uphill within my office complex was now a piece of cake, even with just second gear at my front. I finished the ride comfortably. Don’t even mention about the two storied parking ride up in the B6 building. It was nothing!
On a positive note though, it is unbelievable to myself that I did that Apollo ghat section without stopping during climb. And I also suspect my tires were under inflated on top of all the odds for the day!
The frustration is that this is not the first time it has happened to me. At least once earlier and more likely twice in the past that a similar thing had happened. I would hang something to the bicycle handle and realize that there was load on the front brake. Why wouldn’t I learn from mistakes? Yes, human beings are error prone. But they learn know?